Backed to the hilt by the central leadership and several union ministers, J&K BJP scored spectacular victory in the just-held first-ever District Development Council (DDC) elections in the Jammu province’s Kathua, Samba, Jammu, Udhampur and Doda districts and also performed somewhat well in Reasi district. In Reasi, it could win seven seats and is all set to head the DDC. 63 out of 84 BJP candidates won from these six districts.
It also won nine more seats in Jammu province – three in Kishtwar, three in Ramban and also three in Rajouri. In other words, it won in a paltry nine territorial constituencies out of 42 into which these districts were divided for the purpose of constituting DDC councils. In fact, each district has been divided into 14 territorial constituencies across the UT of J&K. The BJP won 72 out of 140 seats in Jammu province. That the BJP will come out of the electoral exercise in the Poonch district minus everything was a foregone conclusion as the demographic profile of the district is such. It’s almost 95% non-Hindu and the BJP’s core constituency, everyone knows, is Hindu.
Interestingly, the Farooq Abdullah-led People’s Alliance for Gupkar Declaration (PAGD) also failed to get even a simple majority in any of the four districts of Poonch, Kishtwar, Ramban and Rajouri. Poonch district decimated the PAGD like it defeated the BJP. Independent candidates reigned supreme in this border district. In the remaining three districts, the PAGD may capture the DDCs by enlisting the support of the Congress or some independent candidates.
Ever since December 22, when the election authorities declared the results, both the central and local BJP leaders have been in a celebration mode. There are potent reasons for them to celebrate their performance. After all, the BJP emerged as the single largest party in the UT winning 75 seats, including three in Kashmir, and got over seven lakh votes out of 28,55,509 votes polled. It got more votes than the number of votes the PAGD got. The BJP got 24.6% votes and the PAGD 22.8%. The BJP leadership can also pat its back because the seven Kashmir-based parties, which formed what the BJP calls “Gupkar gang”, failed to win what they had repeatedly called “referendum against abrogation of Articles 35A and 370 and J&K’s special status and creation of two UTs – UT of J&K and UT of Ladakh”. The BJP had fielded candidates only in 183 territorial constituencies and the PAGD in 220, 37 more than the BJP.
It’s time for the BJP think-tanks to retrospect and find what went wrong in Ramban, Kishtwar and Rajouri districts and why it could not win more than seven seats in Reasi, one less than the required number. It’s a must.
It needs to be underlined that Ramban, Kishtwar and Reasi are part of the Kathua-Udhampur-Doda Lok Sabha constituency. The MoS in PMO, Jitendra Singh, has been representing this constituency since 2014, when the Narendra Modi-led NDA Government was formed at the Centre. Not just this, two former BJP ministers in the Mufti-led coalition government belonged to Doda and Kishtwar districts. Significantly, one of the former ministers was also a candidate in Doda district and he tested political waters not in one, but in two territorial constituencies. He lost from both. In addition, the BJP also could win only seven seats, one seat less than the required number, despite the fact that this district was also represented in the J&K Legislative Assembly by a BJP MLA, who was a minister in the PDP-BJP coalition government.
The story of Rajouri district in general and its Sunderbani-Kalakot and Nowshera belt is not different. One of the BJP’s cabinet ministers in the Mufti-led coalition government had represented this assembly constituency in the erstwhile J&K Legislative Assembly. As for Nowshera Assembly constituency, it was represented by the present J&K BJP president Ravinder Raina. In 2014, the BJP had won four out six assembly seats in the erstwhile Doda district with huge margins and created a history of sorts. Similarly, it was the BJP which had won both the Kalakot and Sunderbani-Nowshera Assembly seats hands down.
Had the BJP repeated its 2014 and 2019 performance in Ramban, Kishtwar, Reasi and Rajouri districts, the story would have been quite different. It would have won at least 14 more seats and its overall tally would have been almost 90 in Jammu province. Such a result would have further weakened the PAGD, which shamelessly has been claiming that it has “won the referendum”.
Will the BJP leadership sit up, examine the causes behind its dismal performance in these four districts and refashion its whole approach towards the people of Jammu province? It is must. It should also oppose vehemently the ongoing delimitation exercise based on the fudged 2011 census figures and, instead, demand vociferously reorganization of the UT of J&K given the fact that the PAGD is anxiously waiting for the next electoral exercise – exercise that would lead to the establishment of the first 90-member assembly of the UT of J&K. The secessionist and patently anti-Jammu PAGD will capture the government as and when the assembly elections are held.
If the people of Jammu province are to have a real and effective say, they can have it only under a dispensation that is independent of Kashmir. The BJP leadership must not ignore this stark reality. Separate dispensations, one each for Jammu province and Kashmir, are the only panaceas available. It will help the people of Jammu province become master in their own house and the people of Kashmir in their own. Any other approach will only lead to disaster and help the PAGD to convert Jammu province into another Kashmir.